Friday, 29 September 2023

Micro-interview with Colleen Anderson

This week we welcome to the press page Colleen Anderson, author of the poem “The Fungal Force: A History” in The Future Fire #66.


Art © 2023 Melkorka
TFF: What does “The Fungal Force: A History” mean to you?

Colleen Anderson: We’ve learned so much about the mycelial network that links trees and root systems, an alien not-animal lifeform that is part of our world. And of course, there is the destructive controlling fungus that uses insects like zombies to meet its needs. My fiction story, “Sins of the Father” (in On Spec #105) explores that aspect. I work in Vancouver’s DTES (Downtown East Side) and see people being destroyed and physically altered by drugs every day. There is much dehumanization that starts with traumatic abuse in childhood and continues with othering in adulthood. We may see one city or country being particularly abusive of people, but in the end, we are all susceptible to our base natures if we choose to see groups of people as not human or less than.

TFF: You use the names of different mushrooms in a very evocative way. Were these scientific names part of your inspiration for this poem?

CA: No. I chose the names that work in rhythm and potency to the content of the poem.

TFF: What are you working on next?

CA: I’m writing a book of poems on Rapunzel. As is shown, most fairy tales have dark cores. I look at how a hostage in a tower grows and changes, and what happens after the not so happily ever after. Of the fairy tales, Rapunzel may not have died like Snow White but goes through extreme trials and tribulations, giving birth to twins when exiled to the desert.


Extract:

It began with the men in blue
plus a few other people in government succumbed
when each breath they drew labored with hate


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Micro-interview with Toeken

We’re joined for a quick chat by Toeken, artist of “Between the Shadow and the Soul” and cover artist in TFF #66.


TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Between the Shadow and the Soul”?

Toeken: First off: beautiful writing by Davian Aw. There was heaps of evocative imagery to work from. I decided to put the two images together using collage type techniques and then messing around with old Nokia cameras, compositing 72 dpi blocky photographs of fauna, soil and mannequins, painting those separately and then scanning them. As ya do. It’s fiddly fun stuff. I think the whole process becomes what the artist Russell Mills refers to as ‘serious play.’

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Toeken: As per usual, there’s a whole bunch of people out there whose work right now I find is a treat for the eyes and mind. Recently I’ve been sifting through and really enjoying stuff by Mark Smith, who does extraordinary work in ceramics, Gudrun Dorsch, Berenice Abbott, Olawale Moses, Mark Marinkovich and Sarah Jarrett.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

Toeken: Just finished work for Gavin Chappell, Gypsum Sound Tales, Shoreline of Infinity, a few spec pieces and I'm currently trying to get my head around another possible collaboration with my writer pal, Phil Emery (Android Press will hopefully be publishing the cyberpunk-themed graphic novel Razor’s Edge later this year).


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday, 22 September 2023

Micro-interview with Anna Ziegelhof

We’re joined today by Anna Ziegelhof, author of “Out of Bounds” in The Future Fire #66, for a brief chat about virtual worlds, aliens and exhibition spaces.


Art © 2023 C├ęcile Matthey
TFF: What does “Out of Bounds” mean to you?

Anna Ziegelhof: I wrote this story after watching speed-runs of my favorite game (Portal): if you know how, you can disregard the limits of the (game-)world, by-passing the traps meant to kill you. The thought that it might be possible to move independently from the constraints of the world was inspiring to me.

TFF: Would you like to meet aliens from another world?

AZ: Yes. I’d be particularly interested in language, communication, and their perspective on human cultures.

TFF: Tell us about a piece of art that came to life for you.

AZ: There’s an incredible exhibition-space, Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany, a decommissioned gas holder from the area's industrial past. It’s a sublime, completely dark space; you get creature-feeling. They had a video installation by Bill Viola (“Five Angels for the Millennium”) there years ago: that work plus the space in which it was presented is still with me.


Extract:

I watched my hand, blurred by the turquoise ocean. I imagined a vast unseen world beneath. Nothing down there would deign to pay attention to me. I was unnoticed and insignificant. I moved my hand, palm up, back toward me and said goodbye to the ocean for today. I paddled the board back to the beach. It was nice to move my muscles against the resistance of the water. It felt good to carry the weight of the board and feel the sand under my feet. An evening breeze ruffled through my wet hair. Goosebumps rose on my skin. So real.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Micro-interview with Sebastian Timpe

We're joined by Sebastian Timpe, artist of “One Day” in TFF #66, for a quick chat about illustrating, technique and problem solving.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “One Day”?

Sebastian Timpe: The first step when working with text for me is to read it. I like to read at least once purely for pleasure and just to soak in the ambiance of the story. Then again focusing on what imagery it brings to mind. Then again scanning for specific visual details the author has set out. For this story I sketched out a number of different ideas from direct scenes in the text to more abstract representations of the character’s inner feelings. In the end I kind of went with one of each.

TFF: Your first illustration for this story shows many vibrant colours, while for the second you have chosen a mostly black and white approach. How did you pair these two moments in the story with such different styles?

ST: For the first illustration (above) it is a concrete moment in the story, when our main character steps into the room towards the end and sees the woman she loves. So I went with a very realistic approach in terms of colors and setting, I wanted it to feel warm and vibrant.

For the second illustration it is a more abstract representation of the arc of the story. These two women lives who have been entangled and finally they reach out to each other. I wanted to keep with the fantasy setting choosing a door to represent the new pathway they might take together. But keeping the color pallet black and white (with the exception of the red thread) to detach the image from the strict confines of reality.

TFF: Do you have a superstition or quirk you insist on while working?

ST: Any time something doesn’t feel right in the illustration process or isn’t turning out how I want it to I take a step back and go pet my elderly cat Scruffy. She can’t tell me the solution but it always helps to get my mind off the problem and into cat petting mode instead.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday, 15 September 2023

Micro-interview with Davian Aw

We welcome back Davian Aw, author of “Between the Shadow and the Soul” in TFF #66 for a brief chat about virtual worlds and escapism.


Art © 2023, Toeken
TFF: What does “Between the Shadow and the Soul” mean to you?

Davian Aw: The escapist allure of guilty pleasures that save us even as they destroy us, and how those two things can't always be separated. I think many of us—especially from marginalised communities—have secret dreams and aspirations (and favourite media) that may not always be the most aligned with our political beliefs and values, but where those may sometimes be among the few things that keep us going or bring us joy. So that was the tension I wanted to explore here, and the ways in which we disengage from reality when the world makes it unbearable for us to exist as ourselves. Separately, I started writing this story while homesick for New York City after working there a few months, and a lot of the scenes were snapshots of places that I wanted to remember.

TFF: Did you ever wish to be someone else?

DA: All the time. Part of it is that need for escapism, which faded as I grew older and things got better and I found my place in the world. But there's still that curiosity and a kind of grief that we can only ever experience such a limited part of all that this world has to offer. There are experiences and perspectives that are forever inaccessible just because of who each of us are, and I've always been sad about that. Stories are the next best thing we have to get those intimate glimpses into lives we will never live, in this world and beyond.


Extract:
Personality modules spin into motion and transform Johanna into Ashley. She turns to the window and meets the sight of her beautiful face framed by sun-gilt hair. Crafted memories rush over her own until that face is no longer a stranger’s, but hers, drawing her deep into the soft embrace of Ashley’s perfect life. It’s her life, now; her memories, her body, and everything is all right.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Micro-interview with Melkorka

We're joined by Melkorka, artist of “The Fungal Force: A History” in The Future Fire #66, for a quick chat.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “The Fungal Force: A History”?

Melkorka: After studying the poem, I picked out some of the themes that resonated most with me. Having visited in Cambodia in 2003, I had a strong felt sense of the violence that took place during the Pol Pot regime so I began sourcing some images of people who had disappeared during that time and started there. I then sourced an image of police brutality and overlaid it onto the first image. Then I painted the mushrooms, contrasting work by hand with the digital imagery in the hope of illustrating the natural world taking over our one, as in the poem.

TFF: Into which animal or plant would you like to be able to morph?

Melkorka: A dolphin. They seem to have the best time!

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Melkorka: Akira Kusaka—I love the dream-like quality of his work.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Friday, 8 September 2023

Micro-interview with Frances Koziar

This week we're joined by Frances Koziar, author of “One Day” in TFF #66, for a chat about day, night, and writing.


Art @2023 Sebastian Timpe
TFF: What does “One Day” mean to you?

Frances Koziar: For "One Day" I was thinking (a very condensed) Virginia Woolf meets high fantasy. ­čśő Particularly Mrs. Dalloway, where the entire book happens over the course of one day. Representation is really important to me as a very multi-underprivileged author, and in this story I also wanted to lift up older women, because there are enough fantasy stories about 18-year-old boys saving the world to last a lifetime.

TFF: If you could shut down the power so we all just have to stare at the night, would you?

FK: Absolutely! (At least, sometimes. ­čśő) I think it's a collective loss how ignorant people have become about how the night sky actually looks without light pollution. I see it a lot in the writing of fantasy authors actually—they'll describe the moon as being the focus of the sky, when a partial moon is really not that remarkable when the sky is filled with a million stars and the Milky Way. They also tend to have no idea of when the moon rises and sets (it's not the same as the sun! It's out in the daytime just as much as the night).

TFF: What are you working on next?

FK: I'm always writing short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry while also working on a novel. "One Day" was my first foray into including poetry in my fiction, and I loved it so much that I decided to include some poetry in the novel I'm just finishing rewriting from scratch now—a literary high fantasy novel about trauma that I wrote ten years ago and haven't found an agent for yet. Wish me luck! ❤️


Extract:

In the still calm of the palace gardens I stand, watching the sky change from navy to a pale blue streaked with gold. I am as still as only an ageing soldier well used to waiting can be, my grey hair tied tightly at the nape of my neck.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 5 September 2023

Micro-interview with Fluffgar

We welcome Fluffgar, artist of “Boxes Full of Memories” in The Future Fire #66, for another visit and short chat to celebrate the latest issue.


 TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Boxes Full of Memories”?

Fluffgar: I read the story and then let it steep/ferment in my mind. It's often best for me to go and do something unrelated for the time this takes. Get on with some other work, clean the house, play a video game. Subconscious likes to be left to do its first drafts.

TFF: Your first illustration for this story feels very intimate and truly "inhabited" by someone's personality. Did you find inspiration in an actual place?

Fluffgar: For the domestic chaos of the first illustration I need only to look up for inspiration. Creativity and messiness are often found in the same person, and in my household that is doubled. That said, the environment depicted isn't a real location.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 29 August 2023

Micro-interview with Devin Miller

We welcome Devin Miller, author of “Smells of Brine, Witching” in The Future Fire #66, for a mini-interview.


TFF: What does “Smells of Brine, Witching” mean to you?

Devin Miller: We tend to think of things that change and decay as sad, wasted things. What forests teach us is that decaying things are food, homes, an essential part of creation and regeneration. What beaches teach us is that when water wears a stone down, it does get smaller but it also gets smooth and beautiful. This is one of my favorite metaphors for writing: unwritten ideas and unfinished stories aren't wasted, they're just compost for future writing. And compost is a form of transformation, and therefore magical.

TFF: Is it the double nature of fungi that makes them such a suitable witchcraft ingredient, in your opinion?

DM: I think they're a suitable witchcraft ingredient because they are themselves witches. Saprobic fungi feed on dead organic matter, break it down and transform it, which is pretty much what a witch does stirring her cauldron.

TFF: What are you working on next?

DM: I've got lots of short fiction to revise; I've particularly been meaning to get to the one about a road trip with a sea-wife.


Extract

Quiet have I lived at the border between
woods and sea. Here where shorebirds scurry, forage,
where wrens, juncoes make busy life in tree homes,
here have I breathed salt.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Monday, 28 August 2023

CFS: Hopeful SF

Photo by Ádám Berkecz on Unsplash
We invite submissions of stories (flash to novelette) or poems for a themed issue of The Future Fire. We would like to see optimistic or hopeful—or even cuddly—futures and fantasy worlds, including (but not restricted to), solarpunk, hopepunk, spoopy horror, cozy, utopian, happy-ever-after/happy-for-now, stories that tease with the better-than-now rather than warn with the (even-)worse-than-now, golden age sense of wonder, radically inclusive and accessible futures or secondary worlds.

You know the drill: use the normal guidelines at http://futurefire.net/guidelines/index.html. Add “HOPEFUL” to the email subject line to help us with sorting, but we will consider subs from the general pool for this issue, and vice versa.

This call will be open until the end of 2023 or the issue is filled.

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Micro-interview with Sean R. Robinson

We’re happy to have a chat with Sean R. Robinson, author of “Boxes Full of Memories” in The Future Fire #66, about fantastic fiction and nonfiction.


TFF: What does “Boxes Full of Memories” mean to you?

Art © 2023 Fluffgar
Sean R. Robinson: I started writing professionally when the fantasy punk second wave started, authors like Catherynne Valente, Theodora Goss, Kelly Link and others took the work that was done by folks like Terri Windling and reinvigorated the idea of using myth and legend and fairy tale to address modern life. I have always thought that this made a lot of sense, and over the years I've had the opportunity to publish stories from an ongoing series I've called ‘Laundromat Fairy Tales,’ that have looked at issues from life through the lens of fairy tales. “Boxes Full of Memories” is, maybe, a step or two from those, but what do you do when your mother was the sea witch and she dies, leaving all of her stuff behind? A family member passed away several years ago, and the family had to discuss the dispensation of every spoon and fork and frying pan. It was important to them that it was done correctly, as a final act of love. That stuck with me, and found its way into these stories.

For folks interested, one of the other ‘Laundomat Fairy Tales’ has appeared in TFF: “Spindle Talk.”

TFF: If a fantastic creature asked you to tell them a story, which one would you pick?

SRR: My grandfather used to re-tell me the Three Little Pigs as a bedtime story. But I got to pick what the houses were made out of, and there sometimes featured a guest appearance by SuperPig who came and saved the day. I'd go with that, because why mess with the classics?

TFF: What are you working on next?

SRR: I'm in the death throes of a doctorate program, so most of my gray matter is headed to that. I'm currently picking at a Narnia / Those Who Walk Away from Omelas novel that is still in the planning stages, but it's been fun so far. I have a fantasy story (that's maybe a reimagining of Theseus and the Minotaur if you squint and look at it wideways) coming out from Kaleidotrope at the end of the year.


Extract:

A mattress on the floor under the window, a beaded screen hiding the bathroom. The hotplate I’d gotten her for Christmas, a microwave that looked like it was about to burst into flames. A few plants that seemed to be doing well, even after weeks without water.

And boxes.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Micro-interview with Lisa Timpf

We welcome Lisa Timpf, author of the poem “Mycelial” in The Future Fire #66, to talk to us about utopia, music and poetry.


TFF: What does “Mycelial” mean to you?

Lisa Timpf: Underlying “Mycelial” is the thought that Utopia may lie, not in space, but right here on Earth, if we can shrug off the pressure to surround ourselves with more and more things, and get back to taking satisfaction in what is available to us through nature and the outdoors. Mushrooms are a good metaphor for connectivity because of their apparent ability to communicate with one another, and the symbiotic nature some have with trees.

TFF: Does music play a role in your work? Do you have a writing soundtrack?

LT: I don't have a writing soundtrack, but I usually have music playing in the background when I write. It sets a mood and helps me concentrate, so much so that it often takes me a moment to remember where I am when I get interrupted.

TFF: What are you working on next?

LT: Right now I'm working on some ideas for collections (poetry, short stories) and possibly a non-fiction book using some of the research from my never-completed Master's thesis on women's field hockey in Canada's Maritime provinces.


Extract:

At first, it seemed absurd,
mycelial motherboards in our computers.
But the notion grew on us, the way
shitakes take to oak.

Reminder: you can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/07/new-issue-202366.html.

Sunday, 30 July 2023

New Issue 2023.66

“This unrestrained exploitation of the common goods of nature does not generate wealth, but wears down and impoverishes the planet. It is time to fight for the good of humanity and for a new story.”

—S├┤nia Guajajara

[ Issue 2023.66; Cover art © 2023 Toeken ]Issue 2023.66

Short stories

Poetry

Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Micro-interview with Carina Bissett

Carina Bissett, author of “Between Scylla and Charybdis” in The Future Fire #65, joins us for a quick chat about monsters, her story and other current work.


TFF: What does “Between Scylla and Charybdis” mean to you?

Carina Bissett: I’ve always been familiar with the myth of Scylla and Charybdis, but it wasn’t until I read “Dogs Below the Waist” in Jess Zimmerman’s Women and Other Monsters that I really gave Scylla’s origin story much thought. Among other things, Zimmerman explores the cultural obsession with female bodies. Circe poisons Scylla’s pool out of jealousy—never mind that Scylla has no interest in the man who is Circe’s object of desire. (On a side note, the trope of women taking out other women is one that I despise. The patriarchy loves to promote the idea of women being enemies, so I decided to change the end of the story and let Scylla and Charybdis plot world domination together as allies instead keeping them in place as plot devices for the stories of heroic men and jealous women.)

Scylla—who fled an overly aggressive male and was seeking the safety of her home—finds herself ambushed and transformed into a monster. She cannot escape her monstrosity, the vicious dogs attached like a girdle around her waist, and so she hides in cliffside caves where she later witnesses Charybdis’ transformation. And what did Charybdis do to deserve being chained to the ocean floor by Zeus? She was hungry and dared to satisfy her appetites. So, you have a woman who was condemned because her beauty incited lust and another who dared to satisfy her hunger. Of course, they were punished. Society demands it, something I’m all too familiar with.

For most of my 20s and 30s, I lived in that liminal space between Scylla and Charybdis. At any moment, I could have shared their fates. I lived in constant fear of veering off course. I tried to be pretty and thin and quiet and complacent. Don’t rock the boat. That story. I’m older now, and with age I’ve started to question the beliefs I lived with for most of my life. Why did I spend so much energy trying to win a gamed system? Why did I believe my only power was in submitting to the male gaze? Why are women still refused the right to revel in their own monstrosity? These days, I find myself stepping away from cultural expectations on a regular basis; I notice other women are doing this as well. And I can’t help but wonder what power we might wield once we join together against those who have worked so hard to keep chained. I hope to find out.

TFF: What are you working on next?

CM: I’m currently revising a novel about monstrous women set in 1917 Chicago. This work-in-progress is an exploration of female relationships and the dynamics of power in a patriarchal world, which seems more important now than ever. In addition to work on the novel, I’m also preparing for the release of my debut short story collection Dead Girl, Driving and Other Devastations, which is scheduled to come out early next year with Trepidatio Publishing. Many of the stories in this collection also delve into the territory of monstrous characters and the choices they make. It is a theme I continue to explore in an effort to deconstruct gendered expectations and societal norms. I believe the traditional feminine powers of youth and beauty only go so far. I am more interested in the power women have when they lift each other up and work together to create change. Everything I write tends to be an extension of that.


Extract:

He came to me at the seashore
an avowal of love on his lips
pursed to lick salt from skin revealed,
ocean spray frothing, white
foam furrowing, folded
around his piscine tail.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Micro-interview with C├ęcile Matthey

We’re delighted to receive a visit from our old friend C├ęcile Matthey, illustrator of “Live off the Land” in The Future Fire #65.

Illustration © 2023 C├ęcile Matthey

 TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Live off the Land”?

C├ęcile Matthey: The main theme of this evocative story is a forest. It is a kind of maze in which visitors get lost and trapped. So I drew a wood of beech trees, with rows of bare straight trunks which seemed to convey the right atmosphere. But I couldn’t resist showing the exit, as discrete lines of light in the background. In the second illustration, I wanted to show the protagonist. Their looks remain quite mysterious, but we are told their eyes are “too green” from the long stay in the forest—a colour which happens to be quite elegant!/p>

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

CM: I recently saw an exhibition featuring works by a Swiss woman artist, Marion Morel-Pache. She glues natural stones with pieces of wood or metal together to make sculptures she calls “pierr’sonnages” (stone characters). Some of them are incredibly expressive and touching. Her website: www.pierr-sonnages.ch.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

CM: I’ve just finished painting a copy of a Roman lararium for an archaeology festival (see photo). These domestic altars were brightly painted and richly adorned with symbolic elements like crested snakes, eggs, flowers, garlands, etc. Quite a long task, but it was fun to do.

Lararium © 2023 C├ęcile Matthey

 Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Micro-interview with Samuel Lowd Goldstein

We invited over Samuel Lowd Goldstein, author of “Interstellar Wallflower” in The Future Fire #65 to talk about space travel and human exceptionalism.


TFF: What does “Interstellar Wallflower” mean to you?

Samuel Lowd Goldstein: There is a lot written about first contact, and yet we live in a world populated with beings with whom we have (at best) rudimentary communication. And while we like to make hierarchies of life-forms and their importance, sentient visitors might well make different assessments.

TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?

SLG: Absolutely! My father worked for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and I remember watching the landing of Viking in the 70s. It was very evocative seeing the surface of Mars and finding it simultaneously familiar and strange. This has been amplified by subsequent landers and probes. I can spend hours looking at the pictures!

The logistics of visiting another planet are another question.

TFF: Do you see a parallel between your poem and the story “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” in this issue?

SLG: Yes, and I enjoyed that story very much. It seems to me that "The Pool Noodle Alien Posse" plays with some of the same ideas that "Interstellar Wallflower" does. In "Interstellar Wallflower," I was exploring the idea that extraterrestrials might not share our opinion that we're the most important beings on our planet. We project upon them our perceptions, and find ourselves surprised when they have their own understanding—worse yet, it does not match our own.

"Pool Noodle" also explores (among other things) our expectations of and projections upon extraterrestrial life in sort of the flip-side to that: what if being technologically advanced in some ways doesn't translate to having all the answers? We expect space-faring beings to come and solve all our problems for us, only to find they're not that different from us. They take one look at our mess, and decide it's not for them.


Extract:

First contact didn’t go well
it went like a junior-high dance.
After emerging from their crystal ships
they didn’t even look in our direction
but went to hang out with the cephalopods
and cetaceans.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Micro-interview with Goran Lowie

We welcome Goran Lowie, author of “All I Ever Wanted to Be” in The Future Fire #65.


TFF: What does “All I Ever Wanted to Be” mean to you?

Goran Lowie: It ended up expressing a few different things that were floating around in my head. It started with escape—a vivid image in my mind of some disillusioned adult who reminisces about being a child, looking at the sea, and longing to be a mermaid. This childish (in a good way) sense of wonder also comes back in other ways (turkey vultures) and is one of the key things I wanted express. However, the harsh reality of such a life was an inevitable inclusion—that disillusionment even becoming a part of this childhood dream, realizing the current world would probably not be a very good place for mermaids to live in. In a sense, it’s a poem I wrote to try and escape reality, but I ended up being unable to avoid it. It’s a darker piece than I intended.

There’s some gender stuff in there, too. While I have never doubted my gender enough to identify as anything but my gender assigned at birth, it has been on my mind sometimes. I don’t feel remotely female at all, but imagining myself as a mermaid is still fun. That’s what I love so much about speculative fiction—it allows you to see the world in other ways, yes, but it also allows you to see yourself in different ways.

TFF: Do you remember the first time you saw the sea? What is the most terrifying thing about it?

GL: As a child, I was deathly afraid of the sea, or any body of water, period. It took me an absurdly above-average time to learn how to swim and I’m still not great at it. I remember when we learned to dive in the kiddy pool and I was always lambasted because I immediately turned around mid-jump in an attempt to grab the walls in desperation. I mostly got over this fear in pools, but it remains in parts.

I have one “core memory” of me, at a very young age, being in the big pool with my much older sister when I slipped from the little floaty thing and went to the bottom. My sister saved me, probably saving my life. I have no idea if this even happened as it did in my memory. I was never able to ask her about it as an adult—she passed away a few years ago at a very young age. She came to mind while writing this poem, too. In a way, it also brings me to that disillusionment: a joyful life (full of joie de vivre) abruptly ended. The ocean, and by extension the world, is no place for a little girl.

TFF: What are you working on next?

GL: I am always working on many different things at once. My poems are often one-and-done. I have a few poems as a work in progress, but usually I just write them as they come to me. I still have some immense Stockholm syndrome with all of my poems getting accepted by magazines, but I’m starting to believe this is something I might be continuing, when the mind-numbing stress and exhaustion from work allows me to. I’m working on more poems, and even have a little idea in mind of themed poems which could potentially become a chapbook, given enough time and poems.

I’ve also recently started a Speculative Poetry Roundup, spotlighting some of my favorite speculative poems being published right now. I have always been a voracious reader, much more so than a creator, and a world opened for me when I discovered speculative poetry. There is so much of it getting published, such great quality and quantity, but it goes unread. I’m hoping to continue this roundup in the future and continue to bring attention to these amazing poems.


Extract:

I burst into tears
reminded of when all
I ever wanted to be
was a mermaid
among octopi

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Micro-interview with Toby MacNutt

Toby MacNutt, author of “Live off the Land” in The Future Fire #65, joins us this week for a brief chat.


TFF: What does “Live off the Land” mean to you?

Toby MacNutt: I've been thinking a lot about exile, escape, survival, and what it means to be at home in a place. What does it mean to be safe or protected? What is the spirit of a place, or the spirits of people in a place? How do you know when you are ready to leave, or return? How do we recognize one another? All of these things have wandered through this story in one way or another, along with my usual love of textures and intimacy

TFF: Which natural or geographical feature do you feel most affinity for?

TM: I love the land where I live—northern Vermont—and the shape and seasons of it comfort me. I also love the relationship I have built with it, over the most-of-my-lifetime I've been here, learning the worn contours of old mountains and the feel of the stony soil and the sounds of the birds and the growth of the plants and the way they all fit together. I know how to see this place and while I certainly don't know everything there is to know, and figuring out how to move forward in loving relationship to this land as a descendant of settlers will take more than any one of our lifetimes, I understand being here, in my bones, on a level I don't experience in other places. The only place/feature I miss, being here, is a rocky coastline, dark and sharp and blustery and stinging, which has always had a dear place in my heart—but it is at least not too far away

TFF: If you were going to edit an anthology, what genre and theme would you go for?

TM: My dream anthology is a conversation of disabled poets. I wrote about this in an edition of my newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/tobymacnutt/letters/letter-the-second-winter-stories-crafts-foods) last winter in more detail, but it would be structured as a sort of round-robin of responsa, where the poets themselves choose which pieces resonate together, and talk about the relationships they see between them. Every time I get to engage with the work of other disabled poets, something will stand out about the work that I don't see elsewhere, but that resonates with something I wrote, or something another disabled poet wrote, which then ripples to connect to another, and so on—whether it's the way we talk about touch, or sight, or stone, or queerness, or rituals, or shapeshifting, or who knows what else. I want to hear how we value and understand our work in the context of us (even though we are certainly not a homogenous group! the differences are worth discussing too) rather than in nondisabled context, or beyond even narrow-scope themed calls where a lone editor makes all the choices. It would be a complicated project to facilitate (and I very clearly could not do it alone), but how delicious.


Extract:

Sometimes people walk into my woods. Mostly they walk out again.

I didn’t.

This one has not either.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Micro-interview with M.L. Clark

This week we are joined by M.L. Clark, author of “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” in TFF #65.


TFF: What does “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” mean to you?

M.L. Clark: This story served me in a few ways. Much of my short fiction pushes back on overconfidence in our maturity as a species. For instance, we've learned a lot about ourselves from social media, and from how quickly sincere discourse is overrun by hot takes and self-sabotage. Far from having a united, top-down response to aliens, then, of course we'd leap to our forums and play fast and loose with the event's significance. Similarly, of course we'd be pinning all our hopes for change on grand events like fundraisers, instead of committing to the harder work of transforming the systems destroying everything. We're drawn to spectacle like moths to flame.

But that's just a summary of humanity at scale. In person, in our immediate communities, there's still room to dream differently, and to live with greater sincerity and presence. Not always (as this story notes, some people are so hooked on toxic media they'll let wild conspiracy theories and hatemongers tear them away) but often enough that there's room to imagine a better world close to home.

Which is why my story focuses on a protagonist rarely found in SF, too: an everyday parent of two, doing the best she can in a whole neighbourhood of differently struggling adults, all of whom are learning bit by bit how mutual aid societies can step in amid the collapse of broader systems. I also owe the existence of this story to Margaret Killjoy's collection We Won't Be Here Tomorrow, which does such a wonderful job normalizing the sorts of the messily striving communities we could all be leaning into more today.

TFF: How do see your story in dialogue with the poem “Interstellar Wallflower” in this issue?

MLC: Oh, what a terrific poem. I'm certainly not the first person to imagine a failed first contact, and Samuel Lowd Goldstein's piece reflects a common way of thinking about humanity "failing" an intergalactic test. Every other species is of greater interest to the aliens in that poem, and humanity is left confused, embarrassed, and somewhat lectured at along the way.

There's a danger, though, to suggesting that humanity is any more or less worthy than other species, because humans love to be exceptional in everything we do. If we're awful, well, at least we're the worst, right?

In my piece, the aliens are just going about their own journey through the cosmos. They don't have much to spare, but the crew still tries to toss a figurative "thumbs up" at humanity when they come across our world in the middle of its global benefit concert. At one point, my protagonist wonders at the crew's shock at our reaction: don't they have glib armchair commentators in their species, too?

Although it doesn't get discussed in the piece, it's quite likely these aliens also went away wondering how they might have done first contact better. So it's really a case of miscommunication on all sides —no grand cosmic verdict that humans are The Worst.

That said, stories like "The Pool Noodle Alien Posse" and poems like "Interstellar Wallflower" share an interest in reframing our centrality in cosmic narrative. What better worlds could we build by accepting a more collaborative approach to our fleeting lives?


Extract:

Jonas switched off the radio to listen to the yard, his arm cutting over mine to reach the sill over the sink. Callie and Bixie were still at play, clear as day through the window to the backyard, and we both knew Bixie would’ve sounded the alarm if something didn’t feel right. But my eldest needed this sometimes. A sense of control, however spuriously manufactured, in a world grown too strange to guarantee a bit of it.

You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Micro-interview with Josep Lled├│

We welcome Josep Lled├│, illustrator of “Between Scylla and Charybdis” in The Future Fire #65, over for a brief chat.

Art © 2023 Josep Lled├│

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Between Scylla and Charybdis”?

Josep Lled├│: It was very difficult to select a target to illustrate, because in a few words there are a lot of incredible creatures and transformations. But finally I drew a woman, proudly standing against all those visions of the patriarchy.

TFF: If you could curate a museum exhibit or display, what would it be?

JL: Oh, I would love some exhibition like the Salon des Refus├ęs of Paris, with a lot of authors banned from the commercial or artistic tracks. Polemical, blamed, punished, countercultural…


You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Micro-interview with Joyce Chng

We invite Joyce Chng, author of “Solarpunk Letters: Seeds of Change” in The Future Fire #65, to join us for a chat about writing and bright futures…


TFF: What does “Solarpunk Letters: Seeds of Change” mean to you?

Joyce Chng: It means a lot to me. I have been reading Dreaming The Dark by Starhawk, of late, and the words of the story came to me one early morning. I wrote it in the toilet!  The flash is a magico-political missive for change and to encourage people to envision a better world. Words are magic and magic is will.

TFF: What is your favourite optimistic science fiction work?

JC: In terms of optimism, I think it is the advertisement by Chobani (ironically) where it shows a future Earth, united and diverse. And it's also a letter from a grandmother to a granddaughter. A touch of Ghibli and a vision of a tomorrow we can strive for.

TFF: Is solarpunk a genre that belongs outside of the European/North American sphere?

JC: The movement started in Brazil and then other countries slowly caught on. Solarpunk rejects the dystopian and nihilistic philosophy of Anglo-centric sff. However, I feel that solarpunk should belong to all, because it makes us envision a better future, rather than cry about doom all the time. Most of all, solarpunk actively encourages societal change and forward thinking in a world fraught with climate change.


Extract:

What is joy but the morning sun glowing on to the fruits you have grown. What is pleasure but the sweet honey of its juice going down your throat.

The people join hands in celebration. The planting is done. As they mingle, turbines turn wind into energy. It is a gentle hum, like a heartbeat, in the earth-tone houses.


You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

New issue 2023.65

“The right kind of resistance is peaceful, because that’s where we win. We’re not going to beat them at violence. They’re very, very good at violence. We’re not. We win through nonviolence. That’s really the only way we can win.”

—Tortuguita (aka Manuel Paez Ter├ín)

[ Issue 2023.65; Cover art © 2023 Sarah Salcedo ] Issue 2023.65

Flash fiction

Short stories

Novelettes

Poetry

Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB | Mobi

Monday, 6 March 2023

Micro-interview with Toeken

We’re joined by Toeken, illustrator of “Side Effects May Vary” in The Future Fire #64, for a quick chat.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Side Effects May Vary”?

Toeken: An elegant, piquant tale by Avra Margariti, full of inspiring imagery that was difficult to hone down into just two illustrations. I began by sketching Bengal tigers ~ as ya do…

TFF: If you could choose only one book to take on a long space (outer or inner) journey, which one would it be?

Toeken: I’d take a copy of Sartre’s Nausea stuffed inside a copy of Bukowski’s Post Office, within a copy of Barker’s Imajica.

TFF: How has geography influenced your work?

Toeken: …If you stay where you are, I wonder how much can you expect your art or creative response to the world to alter or change in any vital or meaningful way.

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

Toeken: A whole bunch: Cosima Von Bonin, Kent Williams, Kim McCormack, Valerie Depadova, Rick Berry.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

Toeken: Just completed illustrating a graphic novel written by Phil Emery for Android Press, Razor’s Edge, cover art for Lovecraftiana Magazine, illustrations for Shoreline of Infinity Magazine, a couple of book covers along with a bunch of other stuff, but until it’s done…


Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html

Monday, 13 February 2023

Micro-interview with C├ęcile Matthey

We welcome C├ęcile Matthey, illustrator of “The Thousand Tongues of Sara” in The Future Fire #64, and cover artist, over for a brief chat.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “The Thousand Tongues of Sara”?

C├ęcile Matthey: The first illustration shows a spaceship leaving Earth, taking Sara away to the interstellar mission. The letters CD on the fuselage are a wink to Swiss diplomatic car license plates (they stand for “corps diplomatique,” the diplomatic corps). The snow capped mountain in the background is Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, homeland of African elephants. The idea was to avoid revealing too clearly what the protagonist looks like. So the second illustration only shows her feet… after the visit to the pedicure, mentioned at the very end of the story. Sara poses here in a kind of souvenir photo with her dear Hobbie—that is closely inspired by an actual translator robot that helps tourists in Tokyo airport nowadays!

TFF: What do you love so much about elephants?

CM: I have always had a soft spot for quiet giants, like whales or elephants. At University, I had to do an assignment about elephants in the ancient Roman world. It was the occasion for me to study this animal more closely, and I was really impressed to discover how clever, and how sensitive it is. A few weeks later, I was completely won over. I was visiting the zoo of a travelling circus, and one of the elephants tried to steal my bag (in which I kept my lunch) through the fence! I can still remember the incredible strength of her trunk pulling at it. I tried to pull back, but the bag tore open, and finally I fell flat on my back. I could have sworn the elephant’s eyes were twinkling with amusement! Since then, elephants are my totem.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 6 February 2023

Micro-interview with Jennifer R. Donohue

We’re happy to chat with Jennifer R. Donohue, author of “Purity” in The Future Fire #64, and this story and future plans.


TFF: What does “Purity” mean to you?

Jennifer R. Donohue: While I don't remember what the initial spark was for "Purity," in it I am definitely examining themes of parental expectation, and also what "purity" or "goodness" is societally versus genuinely. There' a traditional idea of unicorns only being able to be lured/caught by virgins, and so the (spoilers: faulty) idea of "if I'm not a virgin anymore, then I won't be 'pure,' and I can save the unicorn" is the train of thought I was chasing. But virginity is a social construct, and a person who is no longer a virgin isn't "dirty," and in this case it's the "purity of heart" that lures the unicorn.

TFF: What are you working on next?

JRD: When I'm writing, I don't necessarily concentrate on just one thing. I've got a couple of short stories that I'm working on to completion, and I've got two partially finished novels, one that is a sequel to a short story that I had published last year about a magical dueling society, and the other is a werewolf novel. Which isn't to say I never concentrated on only one thing; there is a tipping point that I will reach in a piece's progress where other projects fall away and I focus on it to the exception of other things until I reach The End (which I say as though I type "The End" when I finish a story, but I don't.)


Extract:

Her father lived and breathed the hunt, while she preferred tricking rich people out of money to actually killing unicorns, preferred it when the mark didn’t know what they were asking for, and could be provided with a white narwhal horn instead of the light-drinking black ivory of the real deal. They’d done both, but Corli knew where Pappa’s heart lay.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Micro-interview with Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin, author of “His New Body” in The Future Fire #64, joins us for a mini-chat.


Art © 2023 Miguel Santos

TFF: What does “His New Body” mean to you?

Simon Kewin: For me, this is a story about the powerless and the marginalized finding a road and a voice—told as a somewhat off-the-wall urban ghost story! Sometimes, I'm sure, we all feel invisible, and the characters in this little story simply find their own odd ways to rectify that.

TFF: If you had to make yourself a new body from inanimate objects, what would you choose?

SK: Highly-polished wood would look nice, but I'd probably go for something that wouldn't ever wear out. Also, we obviously need to be reusing stuff a lot more—so perhaps discarded scraps of metal and plastic?

TFF: What can you be found doing when you're not creating/writing?

SK: I do a lot of walking and a fair bit of running.

TFF: What are you working on next?

SK: I've just completed the third novel in my Office of the Witchfinder General series (published by Elsewhen Press) and I'm either going to move onto the fourth of those, or perhaps a completely unrelated science fiction novel.


Extract:
He waited for the safety of night. Night and cold kept the people—the living people—off the streets, and this was a raw winter night of ice and fog. If he stayed away from the bright lights he’d be, at most, just a ghost image on grainy CCTV feeds, easily missed.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Micro-interview with Ujjvala Bagal Rahn

We welcome Ujjvala Bagal Rahn, author of the poem “Going Under” in The Future Fire #64, to chat with us about this work, mythology and art.


TFF: What does “Going Under” mean to you?

UBR: I’m thinking of the depression of people with all their cares, depression& that they deny is happening. Persephone is a sad character, always pulled back underground.

TFF: Do you think stories from mythology tell us about eternal truths, universals that will always be relevant?

UBR: Stories from mythology are wonderful, holy even, because of their ambiguity, as profound as poetry. How fair is it that Persephone is tricked into eating the taboo pomegranate seeds, condemning her to a half-year underground? Yet, why couldn’t Demeter or Persephone find another trick to save her? I’ve thought that swallowing the seeds from the underground world of the dead made her part of it, and so she feels drawn back. Now that I think of it, this myth could also represent addiction. What would be really interesting is a happy interpretation of Persephone's story…

TFF: Would you use a piece of art to tell someone that you love them?

UBR: I have in fact written poems for my husband and daughter, normally about some aspect of them or their lives that resonate with me. My husband and daughter each has a binder to keep copies of “their own” poems— enough for at least a chapbook each, I’d guess. Each poem was a holiday gift.

TFF: What are you working on next?

UBR: I am sending out my second poetry collection Memories Lounge out to competitions. In addition, I like the idea of chapbooks, so I have been collecting poems for three—holidays, Buddha-themed, and on my thirty-plus year relationship with my husband Marty, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.


Extract:

Like Persephone, you hear
the rivers gurgling in the caves,
like bells that sing, “Come to us,
you know you want to.” Don’t you?

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html

Monday, 16 January 2023

Micro-interview with Joyce Chng

We’re delighted to have a little chat with Joyce Chng, illustrator of “Solitary” in The Future Fire #64.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Solitary”?

Joyce Chng: As usual, I read the story and let the images come to me naturally. For "Solitary", the visual images came easily. First, forests, and then crown shyness.

TFF: Is there a theme-song to your current work-in-progress?

JC: There are many projects I am working on. Contracted gigs and self/personal projects. I have my Joan of Arc “PhD”/independent research. I have also started feeler paragraphs on something I’d always wanted to write for a long time (since 2001!). It’s a fantasy, to say the least. So, the theme-song is “Remembrance” from Delerium’s Karma album. 

TFF: With whom, alive or dead, would you most like to collaborate, and on what?

JC: Terri Windling. I would like to collaborate with her on animal people. (I also miss Terri—met her when she visited Singapore for Singapore Writers' Festival).


Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories, poems or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 9 January 2023

Micro-interview with Jonathan Olfert

We welcome Jonathan Olfert, author of “The Thousand Tongues of Sara” in The Future Fire #64, to answer a few short questions.


Art by C├ęcile Matthey, © 2023
TFF: What does “The Thousand Tongues of Sara” mean to you?

Jonathan Olfert: I found a lot of meaning in the fear and excitement of engaging with a diverse universe through languages and food. I’ve lived in something like fifteen towns and cities across North America: I’ve blundered through language barriers and loved all manner of cuisines.

TFF: What other species on Earth do you think should count as sapient (if we manage not to drive them to extinction in the meantime)?

JO: Drawing a firm person/not-person dichotomy has rarely been on the right side of history, but based on metacognition, tool-making, ritual, humor, and language, yes, some kinds of cephalopods, great apes, and cetaceans are people. Where the rubber hits the road: I eat pork but not octopus.

TFF: What are you working on next?

JO: These days I’m trying genre after genre to see what really clicks. I’ve sold bits of paleofiction, horror, poetry, and sword-and-sorcery, and I’ve given myself permission to write about neurodivergent people like me. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be engrossed in romance and experimental lit fic. It could happen.


Extract

Humans, the matriarch Sara understood, experienced time as a thing to be counted, as if days were hyenas guarding a watering hole. They’d used only numbers (310 days each way, plus 40 on the alien world, all carefully translated) to tell her how long she’d be away from Earth. What they should have said, if they cared, was that she’d miss family and sky as long as any of her pregnancies had been, with just as many tears.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories, poems or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023